Second Sex

{Finished with Lucy}

Debby: While this book was published in the early 90s, the setting is about twenty years earlier (late 60s, early 70s). On a number of occasions, Simone de Beauvoir’s book “The Second Sex” is referenced. Second Sex was published in 1949, the year of Lucy’s birth (Coincidence, Ms. Kincaid?). Lucy is quite obviously a coming-of-age novel, steeped in a staunchly feminist worldview. Yet Lucy explicitly rejects the passage Mariah offers her from “The Second Sex,” saying, “I had to stop. Mariah had completely misinterpreted my situation. My life could not really be explained by this thick book that made my hands hurt as I tried to keep it open” (p. 132). I’m curious to know why Beauvoir’s theories are handled to obviously, but dismissed so abruptly. Thoughts?

Tim: Well, I am completely unfamiliar with de Beauvoir’s book, but I shan’t let that stop me from speculating wildly. (Hopefully not too wildly or speculatively, though.) I think a lot of it has to do with Lucy’s aggressive rejection of being tied down by any sort of tradition, person, or cultural expectation. At multiple points she goes out of her way to describe how she wants to situate herself outside the norm. This works the same. Lucy likes sex because it feels good. That’s clear from the first time a boy fondles her breast and she discovers sexual excitement. Lucy’s biting, blunt nature cuts through a lot of the cultural ornamentation of Mariah and Lewis’s house and society, and the book’s sexual ethic is handled with a similar directness.

Debby: I’ll make sure to loan you my copy! I like the idea of Lucy rejecting any one particular “doctrine” on the female sex. Beauvoir’s book is mostly concerned with women’s oppression throughout the centuries and how “it is their historical insignificance that has doomed them to inferiority.”

Tim: It is funny how much she objectifies men. Also funny: it didn’t bother me. Not quite sure why that is. Maybe I just didn’t care enough about Lucy. Poor Paul, though.

Debby: All I’m trying to say, with regards to de Beauvoir, is that “The Second Sex” covers exactly the issues that Lucy deals with in the book: from birth control, to daddy issues, to independence and intelligence, to attitudes towards sex. I just found it interesting that Lucy’s character, who loves reading and desires to be a woman worthy of significance, would so caustically brush aside de Beauvoir’s work. Especially when so much of the feminist movement during her time was instigated and propelled by Simone’s brilliant and challenging writing.

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